In my second year at Seminary I got a pair of rollerblades for my birthday. I was thrilled to get the skates. I had big plans for them. I was going to exercise with them every day in the park. I was going to elegantly cruise down the sidewalk.
The first day, I put on my safety pads and headed out. I was wobbly and frightened, but I was exhilarated! I had a need for speed. The next day, after class, I headed out again, without my pads. As I cruised around the Seminary, over and over again I would run into classmates who would murmur: “you should be wearing pads, you are going to break something.” Wouldn’t you know it; I rolled down the sidewalk and bam! I fell down and broke my wrist.
It hurt so much! As I staggered back to my room, dragging my killer skates behind me with my one good hand, I saw my classmates. Some laughed. Some sighed. All said: “I told you so.” They offered neither help, nor sympathy.
Indeed, my classmates were right. I knew that they were right. I should have worn pads, but I took the risk. They were right, but right then I did not need them to be right. I needed someone to take me to the emergency room.
Thank God for Kate! Kate drove me to the emergency room when I was not sure how I would even get there. She sat with me until I saw the doctor and drove me home. The whole time she did not wag her finger or remind me at my stupidity. She just asked how she could help me.
At that time, I did not really know Kate that well. I saw her in class. I knew her from the church I attended there. We would talk every now and then. I asked her why she helped me as she drove me home. She told me: “I know what it feels like to do something stupid, but you need help, and no one will help you.” I knew then that I had a good friend.
From this experience I have learned three things. Number one, wear safety pads, even if you think you do not need them, just wear them anyway. Number two, being human means that we do really stupid things sometimes. Number three, sometimes we need mercy more than we need to know that we are wrong.
As humans, most of the time we know when we screw up and make mistakes. I am not sure we really need an “I told you so” or “I thought that would happen.” Maybe someone makes the same mistakes again and again, but shaming that person with "I told you so" does not make that person change. It might not be a matter of knowing that something is a bad idea, as much as one must accept that something is a bad idea for them.
Sure, we do not want others to suffer down the same road we have walked. We might be a fountain of valuable knowledge and know how. We may want to offer advice, and we hope that people will take our advice. We hope others will take our valuable gems to heart, but it is their right not to take our advice, nor have our advice forced upon them. We cannot force people to change.
I think change really happens when we receive mercy even when we should have known better. Maybe we have been told a thousand times to wear pads, but we still do not. We even know the consequences. We fall, and we know that we are broken and hurt. The question is not: did we know better? The question is: will you help me? Will we pass judgment or will we give mercy?